Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Oyster Festival

One of the highlights of our weekend at the beach was going to the 35th Annual Chincoteague Oyster Festival. Our friends were able to come up with mostly-free tickets to this seafood celebration. The Oyster Festival’s claim to fame is just one thing: eating seafood. Mainly oysters, of course. Other than a band that plays throughout the day, there are no other activities besides eating. No crafts, no vendors, no demonstrations, no exhibits about fishing or our precious water resources or displays about the charms of the island. Just eating. There are raw oysters on the half shell, steamed oysters, fried oysters and oyster fritters. For variety, there are crabs, clam fritters, clam chowder, hot dogs, hush puppies, and coleslaw. And all of it is all-you-can-eat, for the price of the admission ticket.

Now the catch is that most of the food is made fresh while you wait, and waiting is the main activity of the day, right up there with eating. I’d say it’s equal parts waiting, equal parts eating. It’s a little like being at an amusement park, waiting on line for the popular rides, except in this case, it’s the popular food. The real pros make a whole day of it, getting there early to nab a picnic table, setting up canopies and chairs, bringing in coolers of drinks, and making a tailgate-style party with friends and family.

Up until Saturday, I hadn't eaten enough oysters in my life to know whether I actually liked them. On Saturday, I ate them every which way but raw, and found them to be fairly uninteresting, unless they were deep fried (deep frying improves anything). I also ate lots of clam chowder (no lines on a warm day for hot soup), including this bowl, with the biggest clam I've ever encountered in soup.

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